Songkran is the Thai New Year’s Festival. The Thai New Year’s Day is the 13th of April every year but the celebrations, and holiday feel continue through the 14th and 15th as well.
The word Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning change. Traditionally families begin their day at the temple offering gifts and performing a water pouring ceremony that represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck.
Nowadays Songkran has become the biggest, greatest, funnest water fight EVER! Major streets are closed down to ensure a safe arena for these water battles and it was just by luck, we hadn’t even known about the festival prior to arriving in Thailand, that our last full day on Koh Tao was Songkran – and it couldn’t have been a better way to end our time here.
In the days leading up to Songkran, Koh Tao had been battered by rain so you’d think that everyone would be sick to death of getting wet – but oh no – plans for Songkran had been going on for days, mostly through the sales of every style, size, colour and shape of water gun, you can possibly imagine. Everywhere was selling them and everyone was buying them!
When people spoke about Songkran it was all about the water fights in the street and the flour, the chalk, the coloured water and the foam, but nothing really prepared us for what the day would really be like – we also hadn’t been prepared for the fact that it starts at the crack of dawn.
My day started much the same as it had every other day, or so I thought. I was up early to get coffee but as I walked out of the store, the shop owner, whom we had come to know quite well, wiped chalk on both my cheeks and poured a cup of water down my back! And this is was the beginning.
After coffee I headed out for my run. The streets were still pretty quiet although there was an eerie feeling that the quiet couldn’t last for long. I hadn’t gone far when I was hit with my first blast of water and I knew this was probably going to be my wettest, most fun, run ever.
Everywhere I turned travellers and locals, alike, were taking aim and firing – whether it was from a water gun, a cup, a saucepan or a hose. Nowhere was safe and no one could escape.
On the main road it was if bandits had taken over. Travellers on the back of motorcycles were squirting away. Families with pick up trucks equipped with giant water tanks were hosing everyone who passed by, and not to be out done, children lining the sides of the road were throwing bucket after bucket at anyone and anything! Not only was I getting bombarded by water but I was also getting smeared with coloured chalk and flour. I tell you, I was glad I was in my stinky running gear. I suppose this is a good time to spread the advice – DO NOT WEAR YOUR FAVOURITE CLOTHES ON SONGKRAN – THEY WILL NOT SURVIVE!
By the time I made it to the busiest crossroads, the hub of Koh Tao, there was an all out war going on. Both sides of the street were packed with people shooting across at one another. It was crazy, it was nuts and it was soooooooooooo much fun!
At the end of the run I was covered in flour and soaked to the skin and the festivities were in full swing. It wasn’t even 10 am but it felt like the whole of Koh Tao was up and out on the streets and the beaches, armed with water guns.
We agreed to brave the ‘enemy’ and go for a walk along the beach. The girls both had water guns and so promised to be our body guards. It was super fun walking down the beach being shot at, with water, by complete strangers, some of whom were taking it very seriously, ducking behind trees and planning formations.
Naturally there were full on parties all day, the biggest ones being at Ban’s Dive Resort where there was a giant water slide and the other was at The Lotus Bar, where they had set up a foam pit, which was equally fun.
At one point we took a break from the festivities and lay on the beach to read and relax – little did I realize that I would become a sitting duck, prime target, if you will! Thank goodness it was scorching hot and the water felt sooooooooooooo good.
I can’t think of a more fun way to bring in the New Year – of course it wouldn’t work so well back home so I won’t be trying to upend our pots and pans bashing tradition.
The only hiccup in the party planning, for Koh Tao, was that all the restaurants except a couple had closed for the night. No one had thought to check on this tiny detail so when it came time to go for dinner, us, along with a lot of other hungry travellers, were a little panicked about where we could eat. Luckily for us we were able to eat at one of our regular/favourite restaurants and though they were severely understaffed and it took forever we didn’t mind. It was our last dinner on Koh Tao and we’d had a fabulous day!
after all the rain
the wettest day still to come –
bringing in the new year